Setting running goals is a great way to stay motivated and discover what you're made of. The goal can be big or small, arbitrary or meaningful, so long as it tests your perceived limits.
In March of 2015 I set a goal to run to and from work (10 miles each way) every day of the week for a total of 100 miles. Here's the journal I kept of my experience in real time...
Prior week: 47 miles
I share my goal with Sharon and she is very supportive which is just the spark I need to begin scurrying around the bedroom, opening and closing drawers, creaking the floorboards, and blanketing half the bed with my clothes, gear, etc. I pack 3 suits, 5 dress shirts, underwear, socks and 5 sets of running clothes to run home.
Drive in to work with clothes as if I'm going on a one week vacation. I stuff it all in my two gym lockers.
Sat/Sun: no running
Not really sure I can do this. Weather was supposed to be spring-like (40’s and 50’s) based on the forecast but it’s now looking like high 20’s and mid-30’s most of the week.
Wednesday is actually forecast to be single digits in the morning with the windchill. Weather aside, real issue is whether my body parts will hold up. I have a bit of soreness right behind my right kneecap - no pain at all during running, only feel it when I extend my lower leg and lower it while seated or lying down, but not sure if so many miles will lead to more inflammation which disrupts running.
Also, I have a slightly inflamed right second toe which came on a week ago when I seemed to clench my toes while running a sub-20 minute 5K on the treadmill (noticed it the next day - speed kills).
First mile is easy as can be, especially with the 2 days off, I’m really excited to be out there. I have to hold myself back though, making a conscious effort to go slow, almost as if I were running an ultra. I keep in mind Dean Karnazes’ advice about ultras - if you think you’re going too slow at the start, go slower!
I decided to wear a heart rate monitor and programmed my Garmin to alert me whenever my HR breaches 144. This way I could force myself to keep my pace painfully slow.
Next 2 miles on Ocean Parkway I start to wonder if my body will be able to hold up for the rest of the week and really start focusing on body mechanics and efficient running form.
Made it a point to do less standing at my desk today (about 50% less). I actually feel a little more sluggish but don’t want to risk the stress on my legs and joints.
Looking forward to the run home throughout the day. Getting excited during meetings thinking about going back out there and seeing how I’ll feel.
I take the Brooklyn Bridge real slow and I’m enjoying my surroundings and people-watching tourists, vendors, etc. all of whom I find annoying on other days when I’m trying to actually get a workout in.
Going downhill on the second half of the bridge I have to almost bite my lip to get myself to run slow. I remind myself that I have about 90 miles left this week and that intermittent sprints are NOT OK.
Body feels great, I’m totally relaxed and running smoothly. When I start climbing up Flatbush Ave to Grand Army Plaza I realize that this is going to be way more about my mind than my body. Yes, there will of course be a physical component to this week but staying focused on running slow and being out there for 15+ hours will be a mental game for sure. I will have to look at the same landmarks, stores and street signs 10 times.
I’m listening to an audiobook “10% Happier” by Dan Harris which extolls the virtues of meditation. I start employing his advice right away while I’m running. Fixating on my breaths, inhaling and exhaling with mindfulness and rhythm, makes the miles and time go by so much quicker. Before I know it I’m back on Ocean Parkway.
Normally when I have the last 3 miles of a double commute I’m ready for them to be over. This time, perhaps because I’m going at such a highly aerobic pace, I don’t want the run to end. The rest of the run is so pleasant that I can’t wait to wake up and do it again.
Only 6 hours of sleep but I’m starting to think that’s all I need and that although ideal is 7-9 hours, everyone’s different. I tell myself to shrug it off and get dressed. Weather forecast calls for rain in the mid-40’s. Could be worse. Start out the run feeling nice and relaxed. It’s a pleasure not caring one iota about pace. Doesn’t rain but only drizzles for about 30 minutes of the run and I welcome it completely. Nice and easy the rest of the way.
Listening to audiobook “Faster, Higher, Stronger” by Mark McClusky - a bit dry but fascinating research on sports science. The info gets me pumped up about the seemingly limitless potential of the human body (and mind) and I start converting the concepts into mental stamina.
Again, not sitting much during the day and looking forward to getting back out there to see how I feel for miles 30-40.
5:30 pm and getting ready to go. Really curious to see what this does to me.
I head to the bridge and wonder what the uphill will be like. To my surprise I get a gift from the running gods: major tailwind! Except for a mile or so, the rest of the way home is supported by the wind at my back. I get home feeling the whole route was effortless.
Now I'm a bit nervous about tomorrow morning as the forecast is calling for 7 degrees and 21 mph headwinds.
Unfortunately, I don't fall asleep until 11:30 pm and I wake up at 3 am. I toss and turn in half-sleep until 5:20 at which point I just lie there staring at the ceiling until 6:20. I check my phone and see that the RealFeel is actually 18, not 7 which makes this morning's run somewhat more bearable. I still have those pesky headwinds to contend with but remind myself this was never going to be easy. I get up and get ready.
Wind on OP is howlingly strong and very cold. I’m annoyed a bit that I have 3 miles of this but I’m also pleasantly surprised that my legs feel very strong - stronger actually than on previous runs. It seems my legs are adapting to the stress and are just ready to GO because they perceive me to be in a near-constant state of motion. Turns out I still had more headwinds to contend with the rest of the way but I try to remind myself that the way home should be a nice tailwind just like last night.
I get to the office and do dynamic stretches at the gym. Halfway there.
Long meetings are wearing me down, especially with little sleep. I feel like I'm getting sick. A little bit of swelling in neck. Hoping not a problem. Run home starts and I'm praying I can get through this. Then just 2 days left. Luckily, the tailwind is with me again.
Not as strong as yesterday but still very helpful. It's too cold out and not at all what I was expecting this week but I grin and bear it. Clothing is heavy, wearing pants and a dri-fit sweatshirt. Really wanted to run in crisp early spring weather but just wasn't meant to be.
I get home feeling pretty good. Very solid run and legs still feel strong. I should stretch but I'm really tired and am favoring sleep over physical recovery.
Forecast for tomorrow is same as today (ugh) and Friday is showing SNOW. WTF!?
Before I drift off to sleep I contemplate how Arnstein does 100+ milers non-stop and with time goals. Ridiculous. Gd bless him.
I'm not sick, thank Gd. Another strange sleep though. Got under covers at 9:15pm, didn't sleep until 10, then woke up around 4am. 6 hrs, not terrible but not great. Did lie in bed a little fidgety from 4 until 6:30. It's 6:40 now, I've had my coffee and I'm ready to brave another day. I tell myself to stop caring about the weather, not the conditions I had hoped for because it's still winter - get over it.
Strangely looking forward to this morning's run, curious more than anything how much more I can take. I also wonder whether I'm going to feel like crap that I'm not running when I take a rest day on Saturday.
I’m all over this run. Feeling strong again. Can’t believe I’m able to keep doing this. Wondering if I should even take a rest day on Saturday! Somewhat serious about that - why not keep going until I really can’t continue? I probably have some good reasons I can come up with, like running isn’t everything (or is it?)
I start to feel some fatigue heading to the Brooklyn Bridge at around miles 7-8. Should’ve taken a gel but skipped it. I’ve only been taking one gel on each run and this time I had already taken it before the big hill in Prospect Park. Note to self: no shame in taking more gels.
Listening to Billy Joel’s greatest hits the whole way in. They really are great. Everyone should listen to more Billy Joel.
Sitting at work a lot more seems to be keeping my legs fresh and helping me recover quickly between runs, although whenever I get up my hip flexors feel tight. Because of this I'm as careful getting out of my chair as an 80 yo woman who's recently broken her hip.
I’ve got a handful of calls/meetings today, nothing too taxing. Can’t wait to get back out there!
Nice run. 40 degrees but with wind a bit colder than I'd like. Mittens, pants, sweatshirt. Hate running with all this weight but happy to be out here. Listening to Chopin's preludes and ballades - very good chill music. I zone out and get to mile 80 in one piece, actually finishing strong once again - who the hell is this guy? Can't be Ralph Toussie.
After a shower and 30 min Wharton stretch routine I'm ready to wrap this up tomorrow.
Another night with little sleep. Went to sleep around 10:30 and woke up 2:30. I'm very wired from all the aerobic activity, especially the pm runs getting me amped and always "ready to go". As I make Ezekiel toast and drink coffee I keep hearing in my head how important Arnstein says it is to get a good night sleep. I try to ignore it because there's no turning back now: I'm getting miles 80-100 done no matter what.
Despite my mental fortitude I find myself feeling mental, not physical, fatigue on OP. I'm definitely paying the price for not getting sleep. Whatever. I keep trudging and push through it. By the time I hit Prospect Park I'm out of the woods and feeling good again. Prospect Park is such a gift to NYC. Love love love this place!
By the end of the run I know for sure I'll be OK to get back home and hit my 100 miles.
It starts snowing hard outside, even though it's the first day of Spring. A colleague of mine who knows what I'm up to tells me it's gonna get worse and that I should head out asap. It's only 1pm so I've only had 4 hours rest. I check my desk, send a few important emails and bolt for the door.
Brooklyn bridge is shrouded in snow flurries. Thankfully I thought to bring a cap with a bill but it's still getting in my eyes. The wooden planks on the bridge are slippery so I take it easy. Don't be a hero here. I carefully place every step.
Knowing this is the final run I start picking up speed and by the time I'm headed down the Prospect hill I let loose a bit and give myself permission to experience sub-7 min pace for the first time this week. It feels exhilarating, like the end of the Philly marathon - fatigued legs but still able to spin them and hold a fast pace. I stride into OP extremely confident. That I'm going to finish is a foregone conclusion which brings a smile to my face. I nail mile 100 in 7:44. DONE and very proud of myself!!
Post Script: I ended up taking Saturday off and woke up Sunday not knowing what to do with myself so I ran another 10 miles for a total of 110 miles on the week - felt fantastic!
Ralph Toussie lives in Brooklyn with his wife and 4 children. He is a founding member of Ocean Parkway Runners.